Sometimes fate or destiny lets you know when you’re in the right place at the right time, doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
Over the past eight years, Saskatoon-based recording artist Jen Lane has shown that the trials and tribulations she endured during that time have led to the creation of what is thus far her most personal, compelling and powerfully evocative album.
This Life of Mine, her 5th studio album, is the culmination of a time in Lane’s personal and creative life that can truly be described as a roller coaster ride that began after she was sidelined with a foot and ankle injury that took several years and multiple surgeries to repair.
With her first two releases, Sleepless (1999) and Injection (2002) Lane garnered a lot of attention within the Western Canadian music scene. Sleepless was nominated for a Prairie Music Award, when Lane was just 16. Her self-titled 2006 album and the 2010 follow-up, For the Night, were both nominated for Western Canadian Music Awards and Jen received many notable showcases across the country and into the US including 3 trips to SXSW.
Lane and her partner in life and music, John Antoniuk, found a stroke of good fortune while playing a show in Kelowna. They were offered a ‘band house’ to stay in which ended up being on a beautiful 13-acre property and featured not only the acclaimed Bottega Studio, but a quaint and entertaining alpaca farm. Jen was in love. They returned promptly, and recorded the up and coming “This Life of Mine”.
The environment within Bottega inspired amazing performances from all the musicians. The trees, meadows and wildlife that dotted the landscape of the idyllic acreage brought forth music that helped Lane process all that had happened in the recent years.
“This place was like a dream; everything about it just spoke to me”, Lane said. “Not only was it out in the beautiful wilderness, my dream studio was smack dab in the middle of it. There was a grand piano, a Hammond organ, and guitars that Eric Clapton had played.”
Having previously worked with Vancouver multi-instrumentalist, John MacArthur Ellis, Jen made the last minute call to see if he’d be available to produce the new album. Luck, or fate intervened and Ellis cleared his schedule to be a part of the project. The next call was to Nick Stecz, who has played drums with Leeroy Stagger for years and was also available. The sessions came together serendipitously and proved to be one of the smoothest, most enjoyable recording experiences Jen has ever had.
The title track encapsulates Lane’s philosophy in the wake of all life’s challenges. “My Grandpa passed away the day we arrived at the studio. My first thought was that I needed to get back home but then I realized that my grandfather would kick my ass if I did that. He was an artist and a huge supporter of my music. It ended up being a blessing to be dealing with his loss, reflecting on his life and his inspiration in these amazing surroundings. He was a lover of nature, a sculptor, painter and poet and he would have really appreciated this place and the artistic process. I think his spirit was certainly there with us.”
Lane wrote every song on This Life of Mine except for “Thirteen” by Big Star (inspired by a record player that her husband and band mate bought for her for Christmas). Her songs paint a picture of an artist who is not only a master melodic craftsperson but also able to provoke listeners to think, reflect and feel deeply through her compositions.
Shoe, the first single from the album, which was released in the fall of 2015, is a foot stomper of a song – a little bit country, a little bit bluegrassy and a definite fan favourite.
“I was in the thick of a recovery from one of my surgeries and John was touring. We live upstairs in a big old house and I was getting a little shack wacky. The “Shoe” reference comes from watching too much Orange Is The New Black, and them referring to solitary as “The Shoe”. At the time that’s how I felt; sort of shackled down for long periods of time yet trying to have some fun in that sort of insane situation,” she said.
Movin’ On, the second single, fits the theme of the album in that its overarching message to the listener is about perseverance. “It’s about going through all the highs and lows in life and understanding that the most important thing you can do is to let go and move on. Holding onto things that are painful doesn’t get you anywhere. I know that first hand,” adding that she would rather find inspiration through her tears than just wallow in them. “When people tell me that one of my songs made them feel better, I feel like I did something positive with my sadness.”
Lane has found a harmonious place in the world of country, roots, folk and Americana music. “This Life of Mine” is a strong statement by an artist who is now comfortable in her own creative skin and able to honestly, and with great passion and depth, sing about the ups and downs of life – and in the process attract music lovers who appreciate heartfelt emotion, beautiful songs and words that inspire and affirm.
Jen Lane vocals, guitar
John Antoniuk guitar, vocals
John Ellis pedal steel
Enver Hampton bass
Christian Kongawi drums, vocals